Using group learning to promote deep learning, life skills and integration in veterinary science

Mills, Paul Christian (2006). Using group learning to promote deep learning, life skills and integration in veterinary science MPhil Thesis, School of Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland.

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Author Mills, Paul Christian
Thesis Title Using group learning to promote deep learning, life skills and integration in veterinary science
School, Centre or Institute School of Veterinary Science
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2006
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Supervisor Lloyd Reeve-Johnson
Collection year 2006
Language eng
Subjects L
300599 Veterinary Sciences not elsewhere classified
780105 Biological sciences
Abstract/Summary A research-based model of Group Project Work was introduced to encourage deep learning in second-year students enrolled in the School of Veterinary Science (SVS) at The University of Queensland (UQ). The model was developed in response to the concern that students may avoid deep learning strategies in pre-clinical courses of the program particularly if there is little perceived relevance to their chosen career as a veterinary surgeon. The impetus for the development and introduction of Group Project Work was provided by concerns that students may be using superficial learning techniques due to the heavy content and perceived lack of relevance of pre-clinical courses. This was exemplified in the secondyear course, Musculoskeletal Structure and Function, where knowledge taught by traditional approaches did not appear to be satisfactorily retained in later courses of pathology and surgery. It was also apparent that students tended to form small groups to facilitate understanding. However, the traditional approach to structured group learning in medicallyorientated programs involved Problem-Based Learning (PBL) which required substantial resources and presented some concerns about the way students learned and were supported in solving problems. As a result of these concerns, a search of the literature on group learning was conducted. During this research, it was also realised that interactions between students undertaking group learning could engender the development of life skills, such as decision making, teamwork, problem solving and communication skills. These skills have traditionally been considered difficult to 'teach' yet appear to be essential to the successful transition to professional life. The specific structure and formation of groups towards the model of Group Project Work was therefore developed to maximise the group dynamics that would encourage life skills in individual group members. It was understood that group learning was not a novel concept but the specifics of the model, particularly group size and selection of group members, were critical to its success in terms of deep learning and the development of life skills. The small group size of four to five students was substantially lower than PBL groups commonly used in veterinary curricula. More importantly, engineering of group membership based on previous achievement exposed students to differing viewpoints and motivation and, importantly, removed the comfort zone of familiar peer support. This approach was analogous to initial entry into clinical practice and had also been shown to maximise group dynamics. Based on the literature, a model of Group Project Work was developed. An important aspect of model development was to therefore link course content to 'real life' aspects of veterinary clinical practice, which will drive motivation and learning. The model was also developed within the constraints of large class sizes and limited resources in terms of staff and facilities. A highly successful outcome was the integration of students within each cohort, particularly international students. The resultant collegiate atmosphere appeared to support students within each year and motivate appropriate learning strategies. Several iterations of the model have now been implemented with considerable success. Reflections on the learning from this experience have led to enhanced professional knowledge on the application of group work in large veterinary science cohorts and outcomes have been shared with the wider professional community through conference presentations and a number of publications in educational journals. This thesis begins by describing the context of Group Project Work and the concerns that provided the catalyst for this project. A review of the literature consulted then explains the basis of the model that was developed and supports the key features incorporated. Five significant publications arising from the Group Project Work experience comprise the body of this thesis. These include: 1. Group Project Work with Undergraduate Veterinary Science Students. (2003) Mills P.C. Assessment &Evaluation in Higher Education 28 (5), 527-538. 2. A comparison of the responses of first and second year veterinary science students to group project work. (2004) Mills P.C. & Woodall P.F. Teaching in Higher Education, 9(4): 477- 489. 3. A comparison of responses to group learning between first year Asian and Australian veterinary science students. (2005) Mills P.C. & Woodall, P.F. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 32(4), 53 1-536. 4. Using group learning to promote integration and cooperative learning between Asian and Australian second year veterinary science students (2006) Mills P.C., Woodall P.F., Bellingham M., Noad M. and Lloyd S. Joumal of Veterinauy Medical Education (in press). 5. Benchmarking across boundaries of teaching and learning - a model. (2006) Mills P.C. & Taylor, R. Journal of Veterinauy Medical Education (accepted). The thesis concludes with a discussion of the outcomes of the project to date and a reflection on the author's professional learning and wider implications for the pedagogy of veterinary science education.
Keyword learning

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:04:20 EST